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Australia flag Advice on Scuba Diving in Cairns, Australia




85 Dive Sites 21 Dive Shops

Part 1: Overview of Scuba Diving in Cairns, (Australia)

As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is an important hub for divers in Australia. The town is situated in northern Queensland, and has a comfortable tropical climate with diving possible all through the year. Water temperatures drop to about 24 degrees Celsius in winter, around July and August and go up to 30 degrees Celsius in the summer months of January and February. 

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and situated right at Cairn’s doorstep. This huge reef structure, which can be seen from space, is composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs and is approximately 2,600 km long. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protects a large part of the reef. Marine life is abundant here and includes reef fish like the clown fish, red bass, snapper and coral trout. Sea snakes and six types of sea turtles frequent the reefs here as well as larger marine life like manta rays, sharks, and the Dwarf Mink Whale. 

There are various options to explore diving the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns has many dive centers to choose from. Day trips leave from Cairns every day to the outer Great Barrier Reef to the popular dive sites at Flynn, Milln, Thetford and Pellowe Reefs. The Ribbon reefs are way beyond the reach of day boats and offer divers an opportunity to explore more of the Great Barrier Reef by multiple-day liveaboard dive trips. The Cod Hole is a famous site, which is home to a family of huge potato groupers. Venturing all the way out to the dive sites at the Coral Sea, divers will be rewarded with remote sites, amazing visibility, and an abundance of marine life, including pelagic fish.

Diving in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef is excellent for beginners as well as experienced divers. The many dive schools in Cairns offer programs from introduction dives to Advanced Open Water and specialty diver certifications, which are possible to take during a liveaboard cruise as well. 

Part 2: Dive Sites, Marine Life & Environment in Cairns, (Australia)

Cairns, Australia enjoys a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. Water temperatures range between 24 degrees Celsius in winter, around July, and up to 30 in summer, around February. In January to April there is generally more rainfall in northern Queensland, while December is considered the driest month.

Each season has something great to offer when diving the Great Barrier Reef. The rainy months of January though April usually bring some feeding action and a chance to see larger marine life, like the Giant Manta Ray. The dry months of September through December bring calmer and sunny conditions and an opportunity to see the Coral Spawning that happens between October and November. The coolest time of year, between May and August, brings the Dwarf Minke Whale to these waters.

Popular dive sites at the outer Great Barrier Reef include Flynn, Milln, Thetford and Pellowe Reefs. These four places offer multiple excellent dive sites each, with sheltered diving conditions, good visibility and beautiful coral structures. Marine life is abundant at this part of the Great Barrier Reef, and includes Parrotfish, Turtles, Angelfish and lots of colorful marine life. The dive sites around the reefs can be visited by daily dive trip from Cairns.

The Ribbon reefs are a chain of 10 reefs that are reached by multiple-day liveaboard trip. Coral formations here consist of pinnacles, walls, caverns and shallow gardens. Marine life is plentiful in this protected ‘no taking’ zone, and includes the Giant Clam, leaf scorpionfish and groupers. Dive sites at Ribbon Reefs boast interesting names like Temple of Doom, Challengers Bay and Dynamite Pass. Cod hole is home to a bunch of resident Potato Cods (groupers) of impressive size.

Another worthwhile liveaboard destination from Cairns is the Coral Sea. These isolated reef structures are situated beyond the Great Barrier Reef and offer more remote diving and amazing visibility. Pelagic fish like hammerheads, tuna, barracuda and manta rays frequently visit dive sites here. Osprey reef must be the most famous of all Coral Sea reefs. The tip of this reef, called North Horn, offers a year-round opportunity to see sharks like Grey Whalers and White tip reef sharks. 

 

 

 

Part 3: Dive Shops, Airports & Logistics of Diving in Cairns, (Australia)

Cairns is situated in the north of Queensland, and is best reached by flying to Cairns Airport from either another city in Australia or selected cities in Asia. As the gateway to dive the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns boasts an enormous amount of dive centers and dive trips to choose from. When limited on time, a day trip from Cairns is an excellent way to get a taste of what diving the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. In order to reach more remote dive sites and explore more of the Great Barrier Reef, liveaboard dive trips offer an excellent opportunity to spend several days on the reef and get many dives in. For people new to diving and beginner divers, Cairn’s many dive centers teach many courses, starting from introduction dives and Open Water to specialties like Underwater Photography.

A professional center with multiple locations in Australia, Pro Dive Cairns is a 5 star PADI dive center that offers dive courses and liveaboard trips on the Great Barrier Reefs. This gives beginner divers a chance to learn to dive on one of the most impressive reefs in the world. 

Tusa Dive, a well-established Cairns dive center, organizes day trips to the outer reefs. It takes an approximate 90 minutes to get there by boat and the dive trip takes all day with about 4-5 hours on the reef. Other interesting options are offered by Down Under Cruise & Dive, which arranges day trips on the Great Barrier Reefs, as well as packages that combine diving with trips to the Cape Tribulation rainforest. 

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions is a highly recommended operator that offers 3-7 day liveaboard dive trips on the Great Barrier Reef, including special shark and whale expeditions. The trips are suitable for all levels of divers and they offer dive courses on board the expeditions to continue dive education.

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